A pinched nerve or nerve compression is quite a common condition, which might appear for different reasons. It may also cause a variety of troublesome symptoms, but luckily there are a few ways to deal with the problem.
What is Pinched Nerve in Shoulder Blade
A pinched nerve is a temporary condition, which may cause a lot of pain and discomfort. It occurs when there is too much pressure on the tissue that surrounds the nerve. When it happens in the shoulder blade, it might be the effect of a trapped or compressed nerve, which blocks the transmission of signals that are sent from our brain to the nerve.
There are several areas of our body where nerves can be pinched. One of them is the carpal tunnel, when the median nerve of your wrist is injured. It can also happen to the elbow, very often as a result of supporting our body on elbows when we drive or sit.
A pinched nerve may also occur to our upper thigh, the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve is compressed then. A nerve in our knee may be pinched too, often as a result of crossing the legs at the knees, which leads to the compression of peroneal nerve.
The small of the back may be affected too, when the sciatic nerve, which goes from your lower back into the legs, is compressed. The area of your neck and shoulder may also suffer from a pinched nerve, when the pain often spreads to the arm.
Some people mistakenly believe that a tennis elbow also results from a pinched nerve, but it’s actually an effect of inflammation of the tendons in the elbow and not a result of the nerve compression. A pinched nerve in a shoulder blade is not a life-threatening condition, but it can negatively affect the quality of our everyday life.
What Are the Causes of Pinched Nerve in Shoulder Blade
There are several factors, which may put you in the risk group pf people who are more likely to develop a pinched nerve in shoulder blade than the others.
A pinched nerve in the shoulder blade is a common condition of women with large breasts as they often lead to a poor body posture. Of course, you can’t do much about it, but try to keep your body straight while walking or sitting, and always wear a well-fitting bra, which will properly support your breasts.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is another cause, which is more frequent among women too. It’s often a result of a repeated movement of your hand, especially with a wrist which is bent down. It also occurs when you make the same moves with your wrist over and over.
Women once again. Pregnancy is a common cause of a pinched nerve in a shoulder blade. Pregnant women often deal with swelling and that can put extra pressure on the nerves and nerve pathways, which can lead to pinched nerves.
It’s similar to another cause, which is obesity. When you weigh too much, the muscles and nerves which surround your shoulder may be compressed, which can end up with a pinched nerve in your shoulder. Overexertion of the arms may also compress the nerves and lead to radicular pain, which radiates to the shoulder blade.
You should also be aware that a pinched nerve often appears due to nearby inflammation or swelling. What is surprising is the fact that, apart from a poor body posture or some illnesses, also repetitive stress may lead to these factors. Thus, a pinched nerve in the shoulder blade can be a consequence of chronic stress.
An injury may also lead to a pinched nerve in the shoulder blade. It happens when the nerves get pinched between bone spurs, which are around your spinal discs.
Other medical conditions which are connected with a pinched nerve in shoulder blade are rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis as they often damage the nerves which may lead to extra pressure. Diabetes, lupus, hyperthyroidism, cysts, and tumors may also be responsible for a pinched nerve.
What Are the Symptoms of Pinched Nerve in Shoulder Blade
A pinched nerve in shoulder blade can result in a few common symptoms. The most obvious one, and at the same time the most troublesome one, is of course pain.
Some people feel it like typical sharp or aching pain while others describe it as a burning or stinging sensation. Depending on the exact place of the nerve compression, the pain may also radiate to other areas of your shoulders, arms, or hands.
If your pain is a result of a pinched nerve in your neck, you may also suffer from pain in your neck or headaches, mainly at the back of your head. Sometimes the repositioning of your neck, head or arm may bring you some relief from pain. However, if the compression is severe, it’s unlikely that changing the position will help.
The compression of a nerve may also lead to painful spasms of your muscles. Also, if a nerve compression is sustained, it may lead to its permanent damage and can cause chronic pain.
Muscle weakness is another frequent symptom of a pinched nerve in shoulder blade. Of course various muscles can be affected, depending on the place of the nerve compression. It sometimes leads to extreme malfunctions of the muscles, when you can’t lift your arm or it gets difficult for you to reach an object.
If the weakness of your muscles spreads to the lower parts of your arm, you may also drops items. Or some grasping and twisting movements may cause you some difficulties. When pain related to a pinched nerve is mild, it usually goes away on its own. When it’s severe, however, or when it causes some difficulties with performing everyday tasks, it requires a medical consultation.
Your doctor will perform some tests which will check the strength of your individual muscles in the area of shoulder and arm. It will determine if the pain you’ve been feeling is due to a pinched nerve or maybe it’s a symptom of a different condition.
Numbness and tingling are other common symptoms of a pinched nerve in shoulder blade. Numbness may be characterized as if your shoulder or arm felt asleep. Tingling is a sensation of pins and needles in the affected area.
The specific location of these abnormalities depends of course on the compressed nerve. The strange sensations can come and go or you can feel immediate relief when your reposition your body. If a nerve compression is severe, you may experience chronic sensory abnormalities.
Possible Treatments for Pinched Nerve in Shoulder Blade
Before you start any treatment, you need a confirmation from your doctor that what you suffer from is actually a pinched nerve. Fortunately, there are several ways you can try in order to bring yourself some relief from pain and discomfort caused by a pinched nerve in shoulder blade.
However, you need to be aware that if a pinched nerve is a result of bad body posture or obesity, you will need to work on these factors on an everyday basis as all the suggestions from you doctor will only help you temporarily if you don’t change your lifestyle or routines.
The easiest method which you should try immediately when you feel pain or discomfort because of a pinched nerve in shoulder blade. Make sure, however, that you offer full rest for your pinched nerve. Therefore, lie down and don’t move your arm or shoulder affected with a pinched nerve.
It’s also a good idea to lie flat on a hard surface, such as floor, to relieve the pressure from your muscles or tissues. Of course, your doctor might suggest you various rest positions, depending on the condition of your nerve compression.
2. Body Posture
In order to reduce the pain caused by a pinched nerve in a shoulder blade, you need to develop a proper body posture both during the day and night. Always make sure that you stand and walk erect as well as you sit straight with your feet firmly supported on the ground. You will be surprised how quickly your body will thank you for this simple change.
Similarly, your sleeping position is important too. It’s recommended to sleep flat on your back as it may successfully reduce the pressure on your pinched nerve. Also, make sure that your mattress is not too soft.
3. Hot and Cold Compresses
Hot and cold compresses might successfully reduce the pain and discomfort connected with a pinched nerve in a shoulder blade. You should alternately apply a cold and hot compress on the affected area of your arm or shoulder.
It’s important, though, to follow the technique properly and thoroughly. Thus, apply a cold pack on your arm or shoulder for around 15 minutes and then apply a hot pack also for 15 minutes. Keep alternating the compresses until you feel better.
4. Honey with Cinnamon
These two common kitchen ingredients may turn out to be very helpful in alleviating the pain related to a pinched nerve in a shoulder blade.
Prepare a small amount of honey and keep adding cinnamon to it until the two ingredients form a thick paste. Apply the mixture on your arm and shoulder for about ten minutes and then wash it off with warm water.
The method may be very successful, but the cinnamon might irritate your skin so before applying the mixture on a large skin area, check in on a small fragment of your skin first.
5. Essential Oils
Performing a massage on the affected area with the use of essential oils may relax you, relive the tension and pain connected with a pinched nerve in a shoulder blade.
The essential oils recommended for the massage are marjoram, sandalwood, chamomile, lavender, or peppermint. You can choose just one of these or combine the wonderful oils. It’s also a good idea to mix a little bit of olive oil with a few drops of the chosen essential oil.
Of course, to perform a massage on your arm or shoulder you will rather need help of someone. Otherwise, you can prepare yourself a hot bath with above mentioned essential oils added to the water. This can bring you immediate relief too.
If the pain you’ve been experiencing is severe, don’t hesitate to use over-the-counter medications. The most common ones are Paracetamol and Ibuprofen. Note that the later one has also an anti-inflammatory effect.
If over-the-counter medications don’t work, go to your doctor and he will prescribe you stronger drugs. Tylenol or Naproxen might help while Lyrica and Neurontin are used specifically to alleviate the nerve pain. You doctor may also suggest you some muscle relaxants.
Don’t overuse the drugs, though, as remember that they only “cure” the symptom and not the cause. Also, as long as your pain is mild, start with the over-the-counter medications. Use prescribed drugs only when the pain is persistent and severe.
7. Injection and Surgery
In extreme cases your doctor might recommend you cortisone injections, which should relieve the nerve pain effectively. If they also don’t work, your doctor may suggest you a surgical procedure, during which a damaged nerve might be reversed. Remember, though, that it’s always the last resort, recommended only when other available treatments don’t work.
8. Traction Collar
In some cases a device known as a traction collar might help you as it will keep your neck immobile. However, only your physician can make the decision if that’s a good choice for you as this method works only for some nerves.
9. Healthy Diet
It’s not so much a treatment, but rather a useful piece of advice, which you should follow if your pinched nerve in shoulder blade is the result of obesity. All the other options will be only temporary for you if you don’t lose weight.
10. Other Options
Other options worth considering include physiotherapy or acupuncture. It’s a good idea to try these before you decide for surgery. A physiotherapist can stretch and lengthen the surrounding muscles, which might significantly reduce the pressure on a pinched nerve in your shoulder blade.
As many people report the ancient science of acupuncture might be extremely effective too. Moreover, healthy diet weight are essential preventive measures you should always take.
Physical Exercises for Pinched Nerve in Shoulder Blade
There are simple physical exercises, which will stretch and strengthen your muscles and therefore reduce the pressure on a pinched nerve. Remember, though, that physical exercises in order to be effective must be done regularly.
Before taking up any exercises you should consult your doctor or a physical therapist who will adjust the exercises to your problems. If you start exercising too much or you do it badly, you can even make things worse. However, the following exercises are simple, yet should help reduce a discomfort connected with a pinched nerve in shoulder blade.
A very effective exercise is a range of motion exercise. To perform it you need to stand up and stretch out your arm in front of the body. Be sure, though, that you don’t bend your elbow. Now, try to extend your arm towards the left and right.
The last step is to put your arms at your sides and raise them behind the body. Finally, make a big circle with your arm. Start from a relaxed position at your side, then stretch the arm in front of your, then over your head and behind you. Move back to the starting position. Relax for a while and repeat the whole set a few times. Do the exercise every day.
Stretching exercises might be also very effective. Stand up with your spine in a straight position, keep your shoulders squared, but relaxed. Now, try to clasp your hands behind the lower back. If this appears to be too demanding for you, hold on to a towel or a pole in a horizontal position behind the back.
Now try to lift your hands or the towel away from the body, but don’t bend your elbows while you’re doing it. Try to stay in this position for about half a minute.
Move back to a starting position, relax for a while and repeat everything several times. Remember, though, that the stretching will be effective only if you manage to keep your body in an upright position.
Strengthening exercises are a very good option too. In order to strengthen the muscles that surround your shoulder you can perform an exercise known as a shoulder blade squeeze.
You can do either while you sit or stand. Just squeeze your shoulders together making sure that your back stays straight. Try to hold this position for a few seconds and relax. Repeat it five times in one session.
A shoulder blade shrug is another common and effective exercise. Sit or stand with your back and neck in an upright position. Put your arms at the sides with the palms facing out. Now, try to raise your shoulders close to your ears and hold this position for a few seconds. Repeat it five times in one session.
You may also try a great exercise known as the pendulum. You need to lie flat on the bed and let your arm hang over the side. Now, try to swing the arm back and forth. You may feel some pain at this moment, but don’t stop.
If the pain starts to be more severe, move your arm a little bit faster. Try to continue it for at least 30 seconds to even a minute. Follow the exercise for a few days in a row, trying to increase the endurance time.
Many people dealing with a pinched nerve in shoulder blade report that yoga is a great solution for your pain and discomfort. Before you start practicing yoga, though, make sure which asanas will be beneficial for you.
Nevertheless, a yoga exercise which for will be good for you, but won’t hurt you is known as a child pose. To perform this exercise you must kneel on the floor (a carpet or a yoga mat would be perfect) and at the same time bend your head as close to the floor as you can.
Now, stretch your hands forward and then backward, without changing your starting position. Slowly touch the floor with your head and stay like that for 20 seconds. Repeat the procedure at least twice.
Another wonderful yoga position is known as a cat stretch. Once again you need to kneel on the floor like cats do, on all fours. Keep your back flat and now drop the head and round up the way cats do it. Stay like that for around 15 seconds and repeat the exercise at least three times.
Sitting toe touch is another yoga exercise, which will wonderfully stretch your entire body. Simply sit straight on the ground. Now, try to bend and reach your toes. Remember, though, that your movement should be very slow as you should arch and stretch your back. Slowly return to a starting position. Repeat the exercise twice.
A chest stretch is also an exercise for you. Simply stand, but with your knees bent a little bit. Now, try to clasp both hands, but behind your back and then extend the arms going up from that point. Be sure, however, that you don’t strain your head during the process. Stay in that pose for about 20 seconds.
A backward leg swing is an easy exercise, yet effective. Stand straight, but hold to the back of the chair or the wall. Now swing your leg diagonally, going to the opposite directions. Try to swing this leg back a little bit and then move it back, placing it on the floor. Follow the procedure with the other leg.
Remember, of course, that all the exercises to be effective must be done regularly. Also, don’t expect the results after the first session, but for sure you will see the results after a few weeks of exercising.